By COLlive reporter
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
What is perhaps the most prominent public Chanukah event in the world, the lighting ceremony of the National Menorah on the Ellipse, just across from the White House in Washington, DC, took place Wednesday.
Thousands braved the icy weather to celebrate the freedom of religion and the first night of Chanukah on a grand scale in the event organized annually by American Friends of Lubavitch.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the organizer and Chabad Shliach in Washington, welcomed the guests and dignitaries, among them diplomats from Israel and Bahrain.
The event was seen via TV newscasts, news wires, COLlive.com and other media by tens of millions across the nation and around the world, many of them hundreds of miles from any Jewish community.
Favorite Chanukah melodies were sung by The Three Cantors – Shneur Zalmen Baumgarten, Shimmy Miller and Benny Rogosnitzky, accompanied by the United States Air Force Band, conducted by Major Michael Willen.
Participants were reminded what it was the inspiration of the Rebbe that led to the 15,000 oversized menorahs in public squares, government houses and shopping malls all over the world sponsored by Chabad.
The first menorah on a public space was placed in front of the Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence, located in Philadelphia by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, Chairman of Agudas Chabad International and the Rebbe’s Shliach to the White House.
At the Washington ceremony, Rabbi Shemtov referred to the Pew study about the the current state of American Jewry. He said the Jewish spirit is more powerful than gloomy statistics and that the nation has overcome greater challenges.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman noted the rare convergence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving this year, and said it provided “even more reasons to count our blessings.”
A special musical performance was presented by Grammy Award winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari, playing the traditional Chanukah song of Maoz Tzur.
With this event, “we actively reaffirm the celebration of our freedom, inspired by the historic and present victory of right over might, light over darkness, and understanding and justice over intolerance and bigotry,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov.
VIDEO: Recap of the event
For more information visit Nationalmenorah.org. To donate to this Kiddush Hashem, text the word ‘light’ to the number 80088 and you will receive a reply regarding amount.